What makes a good scholar-theologian? Here are seven things: [Read more…]
A good biblical scholar is a sane biblical scholar. What I mean by that is, a good biblical scholar takes time for themselves and does not focus on their research every waking moment of the day; you have to have balance. If you don’t do this, you’ll (figuratively) go insane. [Read more…]
As a junior scholar, I don’t consider myself either a good Bible scholar or theologian (yet!) so I can only offer my own expectations based on my encounters with others. I’ve organized these into six key areas: [Read more…]
In any school, especially graduate school—including seminary—one of its greatest costs is to one’s sleep. At least, I know that’s the case for me. I spent most of my adult schooling years with an average nightly sleep duration of 4 to 6 hours. And let’s be honest, for most of us that find ourselves staying up late, it’s often not that we’re doing school the entire time. Sometimes we’re trying to recover from the school work we’ve already finished, or maybe further putting off the work we’ve yet to do.
It’s not that I can’t fall asleep, mind you. It’s the getting to bed part that keeps getting to me. I find myself staying up way too late (usually watching TV) until I can barely function, and then falling into my bed–unconscious even before my head hits the pillow. I then struggle to wake up and don’t end up having time and energy to live my day and engage my studies in the way I’d hope.
But I want to propose (to both the reader and myself) that sleep is just as integral to your time and formation in seminary. And no, not just for practical reasons. It goes deeper.
Sleep is natural. There’s a great RadioLab episode on sleep (if you don’t know what this show is, then you’re really missing out). It talked about how sleep is one of the most puzzling and inexplicable of behaviors that creatures do. Scientists have no idea why we do it. You would think that natural selection would work to get rid of sleep (as predators could kill you), but alas, our beds have been stronger than the “invisible hand” of evolution.
But sleep is an incredibly spiritual act as well. God has invaded many a dream in the Bible and in my own life. He has visited many people as they are in the process of falling asleep. The apostle Paul uses sleep as an image of rest for the Christian. He seems to refresh our souls and renew his grace as we sleep.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)
So why the heck do we stay up so late? I honestly think the root may be more spiritual than anything else. Psalm 121:4 says: “He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” Humans sleep, God does not, and the world still turns. I don’t like to be reminded that God is what I am not, and I can fancy a guess that you don’t either.
If you think about it, sleep is one of the most humbling things we ever do. No matter who you are in history- no matter how powerful, wise, or strong you are – you must and will bend your knee and surrender your consciousness to a power greater than your own with no promise of waking up, else you will die.
Sleep makes us slow down and actually listen to God. Psalm 63:5-6: “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” In this case, sleep (or trying to get there) leads the writer to meditate upon God and experience a sweet satisfaction in his longing for Him (see vv. 1-5).
I see in myself this tendency to stay up as late as possible until I am tired enough to fall asleep immediately. And my concern for both myself and the other kindred seminarians out there is that we are missing a very real place that God wants to meet us.
Seminary is about a whole lot more than facts about the theology and Scripture. It’s about being shaped and formed into a steward of those things. Sleep doesn’t just serve the practical function of making us more awake to do our studies, but it serves as another classroom for God to each us and speak to us deep truths about Himself and ourselves. And that is certainly one class we don’t want to skip.
Therefore may we not take the path of folly and avoid the quiet place God has prepared for us to meet him free of anxieties; the place to bathe in the love and rest of our loving Father with a clear conscience, knowing He is who He says He is and that we are who He says we are – both of which can be our greatest joy and ultimate satisfaction. Sweet dreams.
By Mikel Del Rosario.
Have you ever felt like the more you study the Biblical Languages, the more Greek and Hebrew you seem to forget?
I felt that way, too, when I was first starting out. Today, I’ve completed my fourth semester of Greek and I’m currently in my fourth semester of Hebrew at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Along the way, I discovered something that helped my Greek and Hebrew to stick.In this post, I’ll share five simple ways to use your senses in order to learn Biblical Greek and Hebrew. How can you better use your eyes, ears, mouth, hands and even your nose to make these languages stick?
First, let’s consider the faculty of sight. I’ve found that creating concrete pictures I can see to help me remember things like Greek case endings and Hebrew pronominal suffixes.When I was first starting out in Greek, I memorized all the indicative endings in the order they appeared in Mounce’s text. But when it came to translation, I found that I had to rattle almost all of them all off in my mind before I could parse a 1st Person Singular Pluperfect Active Indicative verb. So I decided to associate the endings with pictures.
For example, the ending κης reminds me of a briefcase. As long as I can remember that the Pluperfect tense appears with an augment and reduplication, I know it’s a second person singular ending because I put the picture in a specific place beside a triangle like this:
You can come up with other pictures for the rest and fill them in. I’ve found this memory device allows me to more easily access Greek endings in my mind without having to mentally go through the entire indicative chart before being able to parse quickly and translate more easily. In Hebrew, the same strategy helped me learn pronominal suffixes. If you’re interested in learning more about this system, a good resource is Biblical Hebrew Made Easy by Blair Kasfeldt.
Second, let’s think about using sound. For most people, music and hearing things over and over again makes information stick. For example, few people sat down and memorized the first verse of Amazing Grace. They learn the lyrics through repetition and music. I know I’m primarily an auditory learner because I remember what I hear in class more than what I read in a book–and I still know all the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” from when I was in 7th grade!
For me, writing songs to help me remember Greek paradigms and principal parts works well. I’ve been amazed at how creating audio interlinears have helped me come close to memorizing the entire books of Jonah and Ruth! I recommend you check out Sing and Learn New Testament Greek by Kenneth Berding and this audio interlinear of Jonah on YouTube as examples of what you can create on your own.
Third, reinforce the auditory aspect of learning by verbalizing it. This has really worked for me. Sing these songs in the shower. Recite the Scriptures along with your audio interlinear. Try it on your own without your audio interlinear. You’ll soon find yourself coming close to memorizing the inspired text as a latent function of studying the biblical languages.
Fourth, reinforce all of this further by writing Greek and Hebrew. Write out the vocabulary words and Scripture passages you are studying. Beyond this, certain nouns lend themselves to tactile learning. Hold some change in your hand, feel the coins and say “argurion” or “kesef.” Look at the coins and name them again. For me, combining the senses of sight, sound, and touch makes the meaning of vocabulary words extra sticky.
The last sense to consider is our sense of smell. Honestly, I’m not sure how to use my sense of smell in order to learn Greek or Hebrew. But this article seems incomplete without at least mentioning one small way to do this: Find a vocabulary word that was to do with something you eat or drink and think of these words while smelling, touching and eating it. For example, think ὕδωρ “hudor” or מָ֫יִם “mayim” while drinking a glass of water.
There’s no need to feel like the things you’re studying are seeping out of your mind as you progress in your study of Greek and Hebrew. I’ve found these five simple ways to incorporate my eyes, ears, mouth, hands and even my nose in studying the Biblical languages can help the information to stick. Try it and see how these practices might help you, too!
By Mikel Del Rosario. Mikel is an apologetics speaker and adjunct professor of Christian Apologetics at William Jessup University. He is also a Cultural Engagement assistant at Dallas Theological Seminary where he is pursuing a Master of Theology (Th.M.). Follow Mikel on Facebook, Twitter and read his blog at ApologeticsGuy.com.
In your first year at seminary, you will inevitably be on either the giving or receiving end of what is probably the oldest seminary joke in existence, perhaps dating back to the time of Jesus himself.
“Why do we have to buy all these textbooks? You would think that the only textbook we need is the Bible itself! Har har har.”
Everyone will give a hearty laugh and then go on with their day. But behind that joke is a serious edge that has plagued seminarians for centuries. We know that the Scriptures are a primary means by which God makes himself known and keeps us. And yet, with all the reading and studying one can do in seminary, it not only pulls you away from your time with the Scriptures, but it can make our source of life into a source of drudgery. Who wants to read the Bible devotionally when you’ve spent so many hours picking it apart and debating it and discussing it and learning how others have done so in the past?
A sad reality of seminary is that for many (perhaps even most!) seminarians, one of the first casualties in one’s devotional life is any personal Bible reading. You get to that place where you just don’t want to read it–or, more precisely, you want to, but just don’t have the spiritual strength to do it (anyone who’s been a Christian for any length of time probably knows what I mean).
But there’s one tool that God has given me that he consistently uses to draw me back to himself in those times when the Bible has lost its luster: a good Children’s Bible. (Here’s mine.)
Here’s my method: when I need to, I go through one story each night and then journal right on the page about how I saw Christ in that story.
I have found this to be so helpful and life-giving. I only use it for as long as I need to; as long as the Scriptures seem like heavy-lifting. In those words, I hear our family stories told anew. I don’t get haunted by wondering what the Greek or Hebrew is, the historical-critical methodologies that seem to be evident in the perspective of this writer, or various other discussions one can have about the text. I just sit on the lap of my God and ask him to tell me a story and let it shape me.
And so, every few months or so I find myself flipping open the pages of my Children’s Bible to the next un-journaled story and reading to see how my God has moved among his people, pointing towards his ultimate work of Christ on the cross.
Moral of the story: every seminarian—nay, every Christian—should be armed with a good children’s Bible they can turn to when their “grown-up Bible” just seems to have temporarily lost its flavor. So get yours. You will meet God. He will meet with you. I promise.
If God has called you to get a seminary education, here are some tips that might help you to go debt free or reduce your debt.
1. Get a ministry position, even if it is part-time, and serve for several years before going to seminary. By doing so, you will enrich your seminary education. Students who know where the rubber meets the road get more out of their studies because they know what’s important and what’s not. If you are going to a residential seminary away from their hometown, you are also more likely to obtain a ministry position while in seminary, simply because of your previous ministry experience. Fifty percent of seminary graduates are no longer in vocational ministry five years after graduation. Much of that, we believe, is due to the high expectations in-experienced ministers have about vocational ministry. It is better to explore ministry first-hand before you invest $20-40,0000 in a seminary degree.
2. Pay off your educational and credit card debt before entering seminary. Many prospective students ask about a school’s accreditation to determine if they can defer payments on their educational loans. Acquiring more debt is not the answer. Here is an infographic about some of the realities of seminary debt.
3. Carefully analyze the costs of the school you are attending. Unfortunately, schools hide costs in their marketing material. Look at your budget and determine if a particular seminary is going to be right for your finances.
4. Research for scholarships. These are few and are highly sought after. Plan to spend a number of hours finding financial aid. Many seminaries do not provide scholarships until a student has enrolled and completed a term at the school. Here is a site designed to help you find scholarships specifically for seminary.
5. Raise the funds. If you are giving your life to a non-profit organization, you’ll be forever dependent upon the generosity of others. You’d better get used to it and learn how to raise your own support from family and friends. Take a course in fund raising. Share your mission with others and explain how a seminary degree is going to help you accomplish that mission.
6. If you are going to borrow money, consider a micro-lending approach such as GreenNote. Instead of going to a bank or getting a loan from the government, invite your friends and family to invest in your seminary degree. Lenders like GreenNote will pay the school and give your friends and family a return on their investment. In some cases, family members will dismiss the loan upon graduation.
7. Go to seminary part time. If you are already in a ministry position, take your time and pay for seminary as you go. It’s better to stretch a 3-year program into ten years, than to spend 15 years paying off a loan.
8. If you are in a ministry position, ask church leaders to provide a portion of your seminary education. It should be a no brainer for the organization. By providing seminary assistance a ministry organization can keep a valued staff member in their organization. As the seminary student grows through their learning experience, what they learn will improve the quality of service to the ministry organization. If organizations are worried about keeping a student after they complete their seminary studies,
9. Piece together a seminary education. See how much online credit a seminary will allow (it can range between 50% to 66%). Combine that with 1 or 2 week residential classes, weekend classes, etc. Consider a fully-online school. If a seminary doesn’t have a specialty you are interested in but provides the basics, see if you can take courses at another school and transfer those into your degree program. Some people take junior college courses because they are cheaper than a private liberal arts university. In a similar way, you might save through this piecemeal approach. Be sure that your seminary will allow you to transfer credit hours into their program, once you begin.
10. Ask your church for permission to do conferences, writing, and speaking engagements to pay for your seminary education. The things you learn and produce in seminary could be turned into a source of income.
It is possible to graduate from seminary with no debt. But, it takes planning, a lot of work, and commitment to your long term goal. You will graduate with more options than your peers because you are not a slave to the lender.
Recently, a local news program reported that educational debt in the US is $870 billion, more than the nations credit card debt. Nearly 10% of the debt is past due. In Texas, 56% of college graduates owe an average of $21,000 to private and government loans.
The 2010-2011 annual report of the Association of Theological Schools cited the educational debt that occurred while students were in seminary:
Less than $10,000 10.3%
$10,000 to $19,999 10.2%
$20,000 to $29,999 10.7%
30,000 to $39,999 9.5%
More than $40,000 6.2%
ATS also reported the debt that the students brought into their seminary studies:
Less than $10,000 10.0%
$10,000 to $19,999 10.8%
$20,000 to $29,999 8.0%
30,000 to $39,999 4.1%
More than $40,000 16.0%
Notice the percentage of persons having more than $40,000 increase 10% during seminary studies.
Why is this important? Debt contributes to marital stress. Personal finances and failed marital relationships are the top reasons why church planters fail. Many mission agencies will not call seminary graduates with educational debt. Because of debts, those called into full-time vocational ministry have to work several secular jobs to pay off debt occurred while in seminary. This has its affect on the quality of life and ministry.
While MBA graduates may attract salaries that provide a return on their educational investment, few seminary graduates will land salaries that provide enough income to pay off their educational loans in a timely manner. From this vantage point, going into debt for a seminary degree is unwise.
Ask yourself and your advisors, “Do I really need a degree to be an ordained minister?” While this may sound strange coming from a website that supports seminary education, many denominations and ministry fields, do not require a Bible college or seminary degree. Only 50% of vocational ministers have a seminary degree. We believe a seminary degree will make your more effective and will open some ministry opportunities for you, but the cost to you and your family may be too great. A seminary degree does not guarantee you will land a ministry position.
Besides adjusting to the academics and general flow of your particular school, another challenge lies in meeting all of your fellow students. It can be dizzying trying to remember so many new names and faces. This too is God’s providence. You’re at seminary because you’re going into some kind of ministry. Ministry in any capacity is personal. Put succinctly (if not grammatically): Ministry is people.
So, meeting people and learning their names is hard, and ministry is all about meeting people and learning their names. Hmm… Thankfully, like everything else in your life and ministry, the Lord will richly give grace for this task too if you ask Him. As believers, all of us are called to demonstrate the love of God to others. One of the first opportunities to do this occurs when you thoughtfully, intentionally, and engagingly meet someone and take care to learn their name. Besides asking the Lord to help you, here are some additional helps:
Use memory cues. For instance, if you can remember the first letter of the person’s name, you stand a better chance of remembering their whole name. Or remember something about the person and connect it somehow to their name. This means you’ll be actively listening to what they’re saying and processing the information they’re giving you at the same time. (‘Hmm, OK, Dave just said he was from Delaware”Dave from Delaware”got it!’) Active listening is hard work at first but the dividends will pay off for the rest of your ministry.
Don’t just try to remember the name, remember the person. Take the time to look into their eyes and take a mental snapshot (it only takes a second or two, really). Listen for something they reveal about themselves in the conversation and be thinking of how you can make that detail something you can pray about for them whenever they come to mind.
If you forget someone’s name don’t panic–they likely forgot your name too. Re-introduce yourself first. If they did forget your name, giving your name first is a way to care enough not to embarrass them. Simply say, ‘I’m sorry—my name is —-. I forgot your name. What is it again?’ There you have it: In less than five seconds the social faux pas is acknowledged and remedied, and no one has to feel ‘dumb’ for having forgotten yet another name.
What it all comes down to is: be more interested in meeting others than being met. Remember Paul’s word to the Philippians, ‘in humility consider others better than yourselves’ (2:3). James says, ‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right’ (2:8).
I’d like to include a final note about the international students you will meet. Please, please, make a point of making friends with the international students on campus! They are thousands of miles away from home and light-years outside of their comfort zone. Be encouraging about their commitment to follow God’s call on their life half-way around the world. Be empathetic to their cultural struggles and sensitive to differences. (Everyday American tendencies may come across as overwhelming or boorish to students from more socially reserved parts of the world.) Take the extra step to learn to correctly pronounce their given (as opposed to their Americanized) nameâ€”whether they use it or not. If you have the opportunity, invite them to your home; share your life with them. Your friendship, encouraging smiles, and prayers for them will mean more to them than you will ever know.